Thus, the boundaries of an educational system are permeable. Hence, there is a mutual and reciprocal influence between the institution, its internal structure and activities as well as the external environment.
(2) Hierarchical and Integrated Nature of Organization:
Systems theorists are of the view that all concrete and complex systems are hierarchical in nature, i.e., all systems, except the very smallest, have subsystems; and all systems, except the very largest, and are a part of a supra-system.
Miller attempted to apply this concept of hierarchy to living systems and identified the applicable levels as a human cell, organ, organism, group, organization, society, nation and supra-national system.
For example, an individual college is a system; the particular ward in which it is situated is its supra-system whereas the departments within the college and the classes are its subsystems. At successively higher levels, its supra-system may include the university, the city and so on.
Kast and Rosenzweig have developed a concise application of the concepts of hierarchy and integration to an organization. According to them, an organization is an open, social and technical system. Hence the technologies have an impact on the nature and types of inputs, internal processes and output.
Similarly, the social system affect; the way the technologies are used. In any organization, the goals and values, technical, social, structural and managerial subsystems interact with each other.
Many of the institutional values come from the external environment because an educational institution has been a formal agency specially set up by the society, to accomplish the goal of educating the young. An institution has to receive material and financial inputs from the larger society in order to sustain its survival.
Hence, it has to pay attention to soeietal goals and values. The technical subsystem of a business organization is entirely different from that of a school/college. Thus, the form of the technical subsystem including the special knowledge, skills, types of equipments and lay-out of facilities will depend on the tasks of the institution and will vary from institution to institution.
According to Kast and Posenzweig, the psychosocial subsystem includes individual behaviour and motivation, group dynamics, power and influence, values, sentiments, attitudes, expectations and aspirations of students and teachers in the institution.
The structural subsystem is concerned with the configuration of authority, work flow, policies, rules and regulations, communications, organizational charts, job descriptions and so forth. The managerial subsystem spans the total institution. In order that an institution runs effectively, it is necessary that these subsystems are well-integrated.
(3) Organization’s Capacity for Combating Entropy:
Entropy refers to a tendency towards a decrease in order and an increase in disorder. All systems over a period of time face an increase in entropy.
However, in open systems it is possible to minimize this entropy. Mutual exchange of matter, energy and information between on open system and its external environment help in arresting the entropy and establish greater order.
When an open system establishes a state of balance internally and with its environment through its continuum of inputs -> processes -> outputs, it is said to be in a steady state or dynamic equilibrium. It is in a state of adapting to the changing external environment.
Changing the environment will throw the system into an imbalance but an open system attempts to accommodate these changes and bring about equilibrium and goes towards its previous steady state.
However, if environmental changes are very great so that the system is not able to adapt to them internally, the system will not survive since a ‘new’ steady state cannot be attained.
In order to make these adaptations to environmental changes, an institution needs to modify or change its objectives, reallocate its resources, restructure its curriculum, develop its staff and the like so as to ensure its survival.
For ensuring its survival and maintaining some balance, social systems could make use of both adaptive and maintenance devices. Adaptive devices try to bring about dynamic equilibrium by responding to the external and internal changes.
On the other hand, maintenance devices ensure that the system does not respond too rapidly so that the various subsystems get out of balance and thereby ensure that the environmental changes are appropriately accommodated by the system.
(4) Use of Feedback:
Feedback refers to the response to output enabling a system to modify its subsequent functioning. According to Granger, feedback is “a return communication or return to information processing behaviour; a control process transmitting a portion of the output behaviour of a producing system back to the control or decision centre or property in the same system”.
Feedback could be positive or negative. Positive feedback reinforces institutional action which may lead to a system not adapting to changes.
Negative feedback can be stimulating and through corrective action may bring about improvements. Feedback may be obtained by internal as well as external sources such as students and teachers (internal sources) or parents, educational officers and inspectors and university (external sources).
However, nature and amount of feedback and the adequacy of processing the feedback vary from institution to institution. Only positive feedback, very little feedback or inadequate processing of feedback will lead to a lack of appropriate feedback which makes decision-making and improvements difficult.
As opposed to this, too much negative feedback can destroy the morale of institutional members. Too much feedback utilizes energy of an institution, results in system overload and increases entropy. Hence, it’s necessary to maintain a balance in receiving negative and positive feedback.
Feedback should be obtained from both internal and external sources including alumni. Internal sources of feedback keep the various institutional subsystems in balance and external sources of feedback throw light on how the institution’s outputs are being received by the environment.
Closed systems imply a direct cause-and-effect relationship between inputs and outputs. However, open systems display Equifinality which refers to “a property of a system which permits different results from similar inputs and similar results from alternate inputs” (Granger).
This concept implies that institutions may have varied levels of material, human and financial inputs but can have similar results or outputs.
Equifinality also implies that even if inputs are equal in quality and amount, outputs may vary widely.
Lastly, this concept indicates that there is no ‘one best way’ but a number of alternative ways to accomplish a given institutional goal.